Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Better Shooter, Kobe Bryant, Oscar Robertson or Jerry West?

Throughout basketball history it's been more common for big men to produce outstanding scoring numbers.  This was especially true before guys like Reggie Miller started taking advantage of the NBA's three-point shot in the 1990's.

When comparing players across era's we find two high scoring guards that stand above the rest in the history of the NBA.  Since their careers played out in fast paced but poor shooting games their stats look just 'pretty good' by today's standards.  For example here are the career True Shooting percentages of three elite guards:

On the surface it appears all three players were similarly efficient shooters.  But we see quite different numbers when we adjust their shooting percentages to account for their peers.  True Shooting+ expresses league adjusted points scored per 100 shot attempts.

  • Oscar Robertson - 115  career 'True Shooting+'
  • Kobe Bryant - 104  TS+
  • Jerry West - 112  TS+

True Shooting+ makes it clear that Jerry West and especially Oscar Robertson were way ahead of their peers of the 1960's.  Kobe Bryant has been a good, but not great scorer in the context of his era.

For instance the NBA league average points scored/100 shots in the '60's was about 98.  Kobe had the advantage of playing in leagues that scored around 106 points/100 shots.  This is why his True Shooting+ is less impressive than Oscar's and The Logo's.

By the way the super consistent Reggie Miller posted a career TS+ of 116, a top-ten mark in NBA history.  The difference is that Reggie's scoring volume never reached the absurd peaks set by Robertson and West.

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